Yossi Milo Gallery, NYC
Thru March 7th
In the back room of Angela Dufresne's show at Yossi Milo Gallery (up until March 7th) is a painting of a bar, could be in the Castro or at the Mardi Gras. An unruly drunken mob of revelers hang out on a balcony. On closer look they appear to be oversized putti peeing in golden streams into bowls held by figures below. A child in the middle has a prosthetic leg. Looking deep into the back bar we can see sketchy lines representing people, children, and animals playing and acting up.
The balcony scene in "Golden Showers of Love Painting" 2019, has the cramped physical pressure of Paul Cadmus' 1934 painting "The Fleet's in." But some of the volume has been allowed to evaporate or blow away. Her decision not to fully fill out all the figures is counteracted by attention to their weight. How a foot turns to carry a hip, say. There's another force at play too, that opens up this busy field of marks. A kind of a Meta stroke; a larger line that winds behind and sometimes in front, like a gestural, abstract ghost trying to take form.
Dufresne's line is exploring hidden forces working at different levels. It's a free line picking out free people.
A huge portrait of her partner Liz Bonaventura is an explosion of "fill." Liz, a painter herself, is caught in a state of tragic mental loss, a solitary face, a counterpoint to the party paintings next to her.
Most of the show is a widely diverse mob scene, though it's not a riot. There's no cruelty in the free play. "Do what thou wilt" is not "the Whole of the Law"* if it hurts others. Which is why "Examinations" 2020 can show multiple nursing mothers in a rowdy disco. A baby is being born from a cartoon horse, the kid is holding a baby shark with a fish in its mouth as if it came from Breughel's "Big Fish eat Little Fish" drawing of 1556.
"Pluralistic Polymorphic Space Station with Media Inputs" 2020 is hung eight feet over our heads on the wall above the opening leading out of the front space. The flight deck is filled with with more casual revelers. Fun lovers are everywhere.
At other times the paintings tighten up, into portraits or small paintings with two or three figures many of these are in the middle room of the gallery.
Dufresne contrasts the vibrating line of the group with the "fill" of her portraits.
There are a number of paintings of actress Gena Rowlands. Pulling away from the wide shot of the Bacchanalia and punching into a tight on her. In "Gina Rowland's" 2020, contemplation takes over in large juicy strokes. Filling out her ideas in spring lilac, Summery yellows, squiggles of grassy green.
At the end of Marcel Carne's "Les Enfants du Paradis" 1945, the camera follows Baptiste through the carnival crowd. He is trying to catch up with Garance, his lover, overcome with desire as he is swallowed by the party.
This is a sucker punch of a show, a groovy living statement of intent. We are in a time when getting together publicly raises issues. "The social distribution of bodies"** is powerfully charged. From the public to the private, the political content of free expression whether dancing, making love, or painting a picture can unmoor us from conventional thinking. We are not drones. We are not imbeciles. We are free.
But if we've learnt anything this year it's that we are not entitled to freedom. We have to earn it. And it's not much cop if you can't guesstimate what it is you want to be free from. So it has to emerge through equal parts contemplation and free expression. Look at "The Insurrection," one isn’t worth much without the other. - Millree Hughes